RESULTS: In general, the genetic diversity decreased from Costa Rica towards the north (Honduras) and south-east (Colombia). Principle coordinate analysis (PCoA) showed a single cluster indicating low divergence among palms. The phylogenetic tree and STRUCTURE analysis revealed clusters based on country of origin, indicating considerable gene flow among populations within countries. Based on the values of the genetic diversity parameters, some genetically diverse populations could be identified. Further, a total of 34 individual palms that collectively captured maximum allelic diversity with reduced redundancy were also identified. High pairwise genetic differentiation (Fst > 0.250) among populations was evident, particularly between the Colombian populations and those from Honduras, Panama and Costa Rica. Crossing selected palms from highly differentiated populations could generate off-springs that retain more genetic diversity.
CONCLUSION: The results attained are useful for selecting palms and populations for core collection. The selected materials can also be included into crossing scheme to generate offsprings that capture greater genetic diversity for selection gain in the future.